I thought having a palm-size spider on my shoulder was bad, and the crazy bus ride was the worst I had and will ever experience, but I was wrong. Not only is Waste Warriors, the NGO that I am working with, is an organization that focuses on daily waste management throughout the area, it also organizes weekly clean-ups at major tourist spots by any short-term or long-term volunteers.
This past Monday was the first time I went to Triund, the foothill of the Himalayas, for one of the clean-ups. The team this time consisted of nine who were from all over India, New Zealand, France, and myself. As someone who has zero hiking or trekking experience and without proper climbing shoes, I was already struggling from the beginning. After about five hours of rocky mountains (two to three hours for normal hiking but we were cleaning up along the way), we had finally reached Triund, which is almost 10000ft. from sea level. The temperature dropped from over 25 to around 10 (Celsius). From there one can catch a glimpse of the Dhalaudhar Ranges (the White Ranges) of the Himalayas. Besides the majestic views, one technical problem would be the lack of a bathroom.
After the clean-up and the segregation of the waste, the team would usually start to head back at around 2 and arrived downhill at around 4:30. But this time, everyone was pretty pumped about exploring new places so we decided to go to Snowline, where there is snow all year around. As one of the (relatively) long-term intern/volunteer, I stayed with my manager to finish up while other people had already left. By the time we finished, it was around 5:30.
About 10 minutes after we departed, it started hailing. It was not any hailing, it was about the size of a marble. For some of the oddest reasons, the thought of retreating back to Triund did not even cross our minds even though none of us had any proper rain gear (although my manager had really good hiking experience). Part of it was probably because we just wanted to head back asap, part of it was also because we did not expect the situation to be that bad. BUT IT WAS BAD. I CAN CONFIDENTLY SAY THAT IT WAS THE CRAZIEST EXPERIENCE I HAVE HAD SO FAR.
For once in my life making it back was more important than taking crazy photos. For once in my life the only thing I had in my mind was “As long as I get home, I will not ask for anything else.” Walking in thunder and hail of the size of marbles while watching landslides right in front of me and had no choice but to march through, losing my laptop on the first day of my trip had reduced to nothing. Now I don’t know how I’d feel when I hear people complain about having no shows to watch, being too cold or too hot, or Michigan weather… Here I also apologize for the lack of judgment and responsibility to those who are responsible for my safety. At that moment I was unable to think of the best possible way to get out of the situation but to move on. I also completely trusted the judgment and decision made by my manager.
Coming back to my own project, besides covering one of the waste workers, I also initiated a new project for the NGO. After following the lives of the workers, I saw gigantic hips of plastic bottles and that water bottle is the biggest issue throughout the area mainly due to tourism. Because as a traveler myself, I completely understand the demand for bottled water which is supposed to be cleaner and safer. So I think it’d be nice to have water filtration service throughout the area as to reduce the consumption of bottled water. It sounds ideal but there remain a lot of technical issues such as preference of travelers and the conflicts between businesses. So for the next couple weeks I’ll have to sort these things out in order to have better ways and a clearer picture to solve these issues.